We have no recap this week since our Theme’s piece pretty much covers the gamut! The finale is in sight and it’s still anyone’s game (except Aubry and Troyzan, right?).
For the past two weeks, the themes of the episodes have largely centered on emotional factors. Of course this makes a lot of sense considering that at its core, Survivor is a game based around social bonds and how to exploit them. At its crux, most of the episodes will come down to the reaction that occurs between two humans interacting.
However, this week, one of the episode’s biggest themes was based on tangible things that only exist within the game. It is also something that has repeated itself throughout the course of Survivor history, proving once again that those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them. I am talking about advantages and their status as a double edged sword.
Taken at face value, advantages are great to have in Survivor. Be it an idol, a vote steal or any other type of secret benefit, logic dictates that having it in your possession is better than not having it at all. There is certainly a case to be made that this is true. Yul Kwon doesn’t win Survivor Cook Islands without his God Idol and Mike Holloway’s insane immunity streak to a win doesn’t happen without him playing his idol at final seven.
That said, in recent seasons, the game has been changing very quickly and that means extra advantages are being added almost every year. The most recent of which is the Legacy Advantage. This year, Sierra Dawn-Thomas stumbled upon the legacy advantage during the marooning. Up until this week’s episode, no one was even aware of its existence in the Game Changers’ realm. Knowing she was at the bottom after having her majority alliance flipped upside down, Sierra decided to try and change her fate by leveraging her ownership of the legacy advantage.
Since she is close to Sarah Lacina, who happens to be in the majority alliance, Sierra decided that Sarah would be the best person to talk to. That’s a good start because this decision will create an in-roads with her. Sierra begins the conversation excellently by telling her about the legacy advantage in the sense that it’s an immunity idol that can only be used at final six. She tells Sarah that they should work together to find a way to best use it. Sarah is, of course, shocked by this information because less than a minute before, she had no idea the legacy advantage was even a thing.
At this point, Sarah agrees with Sierra that they can work together. Perfect for Sierra as she gets exactly what she wants to hear, end of the conversation, right? Unfortunately not. Sierra gets a case of blabber mouth and adds that if she’s voted off, she has to will the advantage to someone else and that someone will be Sarah. In less than a minute, Sierra has gained some leverage and then taken it, beaten it to a pulp with a shovel, and thrown it into a lake with cinder blocks tied to its feet. Knowing she can simply outright own the advantage by voting Sierra out, Sarah no longer has any need to keep Sierra around.
Cut to the end of the episode and Sierra is blindsided out of the game. She really thought she had managed to acquire the votes to stick around. Sarah plays everything off brilliantly by acting shocked at her boot and Sierra wills her the advantage just like she had said. As she gives it away, Sierra still believes that Sarah voted along with her and now, the only other person who knows about the advantage is out of the game. Sarah is in the clear.
That is a clear cut example of how advantages can actually hurt someone within the game of Survivor. Sierra had an idea to parlay her legacy advantage into a more powerful position in the pecking order and she played it badly. The advantage was the biggest cause of her downfall. It may be the biggest example of advantages becoming burdens in the episode but it wasn’t the only one.
Another form of advantage exists in the Survivor world: the benefit of winning challenges and reaping their rewards. These gains are usually in the form of fuel; food, comfort, or love. As is tradition in Survivor, the winner of the reward challenge gets to pick who else comes along with them on any given reward. That choice can often lead to deadly consequences and I have a few historic examples to point to before we tackle this episode’s reward.
One such person is Chase Rice from Survivor: Nicaragua. Chase is a good dude who is not necessarily equipped to handle everything Survivor could throw at him. Chase is also a physically fit young man who poses a real challenge threat. As such, Chase wins a lot of reward challenges and almost every time, he chooses the wrong people to bring along with him. Throughout the season, people repeatedly get angry at him for not choosing them to go on reward, including members of his own alliance. It doesn’t torpedo his game but it doesn’t help him curry any favors towards the jury which plays a part in him finishing second place. However, Chase is far from the biggest example of someone blowing up their game with reward challenge choices.
To me, the biggest misfire in choosing someone on a reward has to be Ian Rosenberger in Survivor: Palau. At the final five, he wins the car reward and has to choose who he will take to a night in a mansion. Despite promising his best friend Katie Gallagher, Ian says that he has to choose Tom Westman because they had shook hands to choose each other if the reward involved a car. This is despite Tom telling him not to choose him prior to the reward challenge. That simple choice from Ian completely implodes his game and kick starts a three episode saga where he goes from the top contender to bowing down from the final immunity challenge of the season to regain his friendship with Tom and Katie. If Ian chooses correctly at the car reward and takes Katie, he could easily end up being the winner of Palau.
Swinging back to Game Changers now, no reward challenge is bigger than the loved ones visit. The players have now been out there over 30 days and are missing their friends and family back home. Getting an opportunity to see someone you love can offer just enough motivation to push you through the last week, which has to be the toughest of them all. The Survivors are very motivated to win this challenge in order to spend time with their loved ones. That said, I have always been a strong believer that you should always throw it.
The reason is simple, winning this challenge has its obvious perks, but it also has a huge downside. Being put in a position of choosing who else will get to see their friends or family is an easy way to get a bunch of people angry at you. Plus, sometimes Survivor will even throw some curveballs at you and force you to decide between seeing your loved one or giving it up and letting everyone else have theirs. That decision becomes even more impossible because giving it up makes you too good in the eyes of the jury and keeping it is essentially asking to be voted out next. Instead, it is far better to throw the challenge and hope that someone picks you where you can enjoy the perks without any blowback.
In this week’s episode, Brad Culpepper, Andrea Boelkhe and Aubry Bracco were the ones who had to decide who else could enjoy the reward. They chose Cirie Fields and Sarah Lacina, both understandable decisions considering Cirie would get to see her son and Sarah her husband. Unfortunately for the trio, that meant leaving behind a group of people that includes Michaela Bradshaw and Tai Trang. They are two of the most unstable people in terms of gameplay. Tai is known for his penchant for flipping between sides on a whim and Michaela is one of the most emotional players to ever hit the island. Not letting them see their loved ones and leaving them to wallow together meant not being able to do any damage control.
We saw the results, Michaela approached Tai and formed a bond. While she voted with her alliance to vote out Sierra, there is no telling what Michaela will want to do next. She has openly talked about wanting to target Andrea, who is supposed to be in her alliance, and part of that is because Andrea did not pick her for the reward. With that choice, Aubry and Andrea allied Michaela with an unpredictable force in Tai who also happens to have two idols. They don’t know it yet, but the advantages they got in winning that reward may just come back to bite them in the butt sometime between now and the finale. We will just have to wait and see.